In a small but active industry, South Africa has produced a selection of stellar rappers from our male counterparts, but in retrospect, the gap for a mainstream female emcee is as big and deep as the Kimberley Big Hole.
Let’s go back in time to the 90s when hip-hop was birthed and was growing at an exponential rate to the fully-fledged industry that it is today. Let’s go back to a time when there was an influx of women rappers such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-n-Pepa, Missy Elliot, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Eve and Lauryn Hill bombarding our airwaves and gracing our TV screens. A time when tracks like “Ladies Night” showed unity and collaboration between female hip-hop artists.
Now let’s fast-forward to 2013 where the only female rapper topping the charts is Nicki Minaj, and the rest of the up-and-comers are beefing with each other perpetuating the crabs-in-a-bucket mentality. They erroneously believe that there can only be one Queen of the Hill but in actuality are guaranteeing their own collective demise even before they have really blown up (think Iggy Azalea vs Azealia Banks, Angel Haze vs Azealia Banks, Kreayshawn vs Azealia Banks).
Take a trip across the skies to our very own Africa. In Nigeria today, the hip-hop space is brimming with diverse female rappers such as Sasha P, Blaise, Muna, Eva Alodiah, Kel, Bouqui and Zee. Mozambique has Dama Do Bling. Uganda has Keko. Ghana has Sena and Baby G. Kenya has Xtatic. And South Africa has ???
It’s not that there aren’t any South African female rappers out there, it’s the fact that there are no music videos that showcase them on our TV screens and sky-rocket them onto a mainstream platform. It’s the fact that their music is not playlisted on our local radio stations. A piece appeared here on CHEKA Digital a few months ago titled Dear Female Emcees: The World Needs To Hear Your Voice, where the writer calls on female rappers “to come to the forefront” and bring “the female perspective”. He writes that “the hip-hop culture has been tagged a misogynist and chauvinistic industry and it’s a pity female rappers are not showcasing their talents to maximum capacity”, yet he fails to realise that it is precisely because the hip-hop industry is so misogynistic and chauvinistic that the pity isn’t that they aren’t showcasing their talents, but in the fact that they are unable to.
Our male counterparts who run this country’s hip-hop industry quite simply just do not want to hear a woman’s voice. They do not want to hear her rhyme her story, lyrically spell out her emotions; her perspective on life and other matters. This applies from the manager who believes that a female hip-hop artist is a waste of time to the record company exec who does not believe that she will sell.
I just want to see a South African female emcee have her music videos on high rotation on MTV Base like Sasha P and have her singles playing on every major local radio station like Khuli Chana and AKA. I can only hope the winds of change and innovation sweep the industry so that we do not become stagnant and fall behind the rest of the continent. It is only the location of our country that should be described as being at the bottom of Africa, not our music industry.
Written By: Nomusa Mthethwa (@NomusaMT)